The German government wants to promote digital volunteering and put it in more concrete terms with an engagement strategy. Wikimedia Deutschland 2022 was a significant driving force in this process and is heard as a voice.
There is no doubt that Germany is a country of volunteers. Around 29 million people are involved in all areas of society for the common good. The fact that this also includes digital volunteering – and that it should be promoted more strongly – is also beginning to be recognized more and more at the political level. “There is a great deal of interest in providing political support for the as yet untapped potential of digital engagement,” Lilli Iliev, Head of Policy & Public Sector at Wikimedia Deutschland, describes what she has observed. “However, there is often still a lack of insight into the needs of digitally engaged people.”
Since 2022, the governing traffic light coalition has commissioned the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) to develop an engagement strategy for strengthening digital volunteering in Germany. WMDE brings its own long-standing expertise to the table and uses examples from Wikimedia projects to demonstrate the digital volunteer work that is already happening. “Our input is welcome and will be taken up by policymakers,” says Iliev, yet admittedly, the most important aspect is “that concrete measures are derived from it to create a better political framework for digital volunteering.”
Demands on politicians
Among other things, WMDE 2022 has formulated concrete demands to decision-makers in a Policy Letter. These include, for example, the impulse to focus more on structural and less on project funding. The issue is “what long-term funding offers are needed to give space to a wider range of digital engagement,” says Iliev. Local spaces where Wikipedia volunteers can meet and exchange ideas – such as those provided by WMDE in the form of Lokal K in Cologne – are a good example of structural support.
A “voluntary digital year” is also one of the demands – existing concepts for this could be introduced nationwide and include engagement dedicated to digital topics: for example, advocacy of digital citizens’ rights or open infrastructure. A digital exchange between the generations would also be conceivable, with younger people teaching older people Internet skills in a local area, for example.
More diversity in volunteer work
Last but not least, WMDE’s demands to support digital volunteering also aim to ensure that policymakers enable more diversity in digital volunteering. “In doing so, we are pointing to a larger sociopolitical problem,” Iliev explains. “We need support services that specifically target individuals who are currently underrepresented.” For example, expanding caregiving services could help relieve the burden on people with many caregiving responsibilities – giving them the time to volunteer in the first place.
“As Wikimedia, we will continue to advise on the development of the Engagement Strategy and work toward good policy frameworks for digitally engaged people,” Iliev said.